May 17, 2013
By Skip Heitzig
A couple of years ago, a 44-year-old surfer from Hawaii rode a 78-foot wave off the coast of Portugal to break the Guinness World Record for the largest wave ever ridden. He called the feat “a stroke of luck,” and has used it to urge people to follow their passions. He said, "The world would be a much better place if everyone was doing what they wanted to do."
I know something preferable to make this world a better place, and that is doing what God wants us to do. That’s less of a mystery than you might think. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives us these commands: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I want you to notice that this is an inside job. We often look at God’s will as something outside—“What action does He want me to perform?” rather than “What attitude does He want me to have?” Doing the will of God begins with the attitudes before it ever touches the actions. It begins in the heart.
“Rejoice always.”Joy is one of the elements that is missing from the world in general, and from the life of an unbeliever. Consistent joy is something only the gospel produces. That doesn’t mean you’re “amped” all the time; your body and emotions weren’t designed to handle that. Joy is not a constant emotional high, but an inner satisfaction that comes when we trust God with our future. Even in the midst of trouble, there is an inward joy that doesn’t depend on the outward circumstances. If you depend on circumstances or other people for your joy, you’ll be miserable.
And it’s a choice, it’s not an automatic response. You have to learn it: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Remember, a genuine, joyful Christian is a great advertisement for the gospel, but a gloomy Christian is a bad one.
“Pray without ceasing.” It’s no coincidence that joy and prayer are linked together. Our outlook in life is often determined by our “uplook” to God. If you’re in the habit of turning everything over to God in prayer, your outlook will be a lot different than if you don’t. Those Christians who don’t are very often burned out. The only way to have a heart full of joy is to have a heart free of burdens. So you have to get rid of them, and the best way to do that is to pray. Peter said we should cast all our cares upon God (see 1 Peter 5:7)—and, may I add, leave them there!
“In everything give thanks.” Most of our prayers are prayers of petition rather than thanksgiving, but throughout the Bible, thanksgiving is common. Paul opens many of his epistles by saying “I thank God for you…” Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Whatever you do or say, it should be filled and surrounded by a heart that is thankful unto the Lord.
Please note that it says, “in” everything give thanks; it doesn’t say “for” everything. That’s an important distinction. “In” the midst of any situation I find myself, though I don’t thank Him “for” it, I can still render thanks to the Lord because He is in charge. If you believe Romans 8:28, you will be able to be a thankful person.
So the will of God is not mystical or weird. Rejoice, pray, and give thanks. This is not the will of God for a few; these things can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time. And they will indeed make your life immeasurably better!
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